Cleveland Leadership Center set to debut new program, Campus Cleveland

From enhancing tourism to developing the tech sector, efforts abound all over Cleveland to attract and retain talent to our fair city. Yet among these initiatives, one population has remained somewhat off the radar: college students already attending school in Cleveland. With estimates placing this population at 130,000 young people across northeast Ohio, what might it look like if a higher percentage of them stayed in Cleveland after commencement?

The Cleveland Leadership Center (CLC) is setting out to answer that pivotal question with Campus Cleveland, a rebranding of their (i)Cleveland program. While (i)Cleveland was targeted at college students visiting Cleveland for summer internships, Campus Cleveland will shift the focus to those already studying in the area year-round.

Via events, networking opportunities, and leadership development efforts, the goal of this partnership with over a dozen local schools is to position Cleveland as a destination in which college students can see themselves for years to come. (Participating schools so far including Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland State University, Cuyahoga Community College, and more.)

“So many college students only see Cleveland as a destination for a concert, sporting event, or restaurant,” says Marianne Crosley, President and CEO of CLC. “We want to get them to slow down, see everything they’re driving by, and realize just how much Cleveland has to offer.”

The program was partly inspired by a recent visit by Campus Philly, a nonprofit organization in the Greater Philadelphia tri-state region that has hosted hundreds of events directly leading to the increase in young people living and working in that area after graduation—along with a subsequent infusion of over $131 million of additional revenue into the city.

“The alumni from our Leadership Cleveland program heard this presentation and immediately thought, ‘We could definitely do that here,'” says Nicholas Aylward, CLC’s Director of College & Young Professional Programs.

One vital key to the program’s success will be determining what will actually keep college students in the area. To that end, students in enrolled in the “Managing Change, Creativity, and Innovation” graduate course at Baldwin Wallace University will be conducting primary and secondary research, engaging in creative brainstorming, and collecting data on Northeast Ohio’s current crop of college students to assess what will be most effective for optimal retention.

“This is a win-win, because even as our students will be yielding some best practices for the Cleveland Leadership Center’s efforts, they will also be developing their own consulting and professional development skills,” says Dr. Lori Long, professor of business.

Campus Cleveland will kick off on March 19 with a “Career Connections” event hosted at the Downtown Public Library and co-sponsored by Sherwin Williams. More than just a traditional “career fair,” the day will include breakout sessions on leadership development, communications, and networking with top business leaders.

“The more we teach the skills needed for students after graduation, the more we increase the quality of the employment pipeline already here in the Cleveland area,” says Aylward. “Ultimately, this will help keep students anchored and invested in Cleveland—and help us keep them here after graduation.”

Ken Schneck
Ken Schneck

About the Author: Ken Schneck

Ken Schneck is the Editor of The Buckeye Flame, Ohio’s LGBTQ+ news and views digital platform. He is the author of Seriously…What Am I Doing Here? The Adventures of a Wondering and Wandering Gay Jew (2017), LGBTQ Cleveland (2018), LGBTQ Columbus (2019), and LGBTQ Cincinnati. For 10 years, he was the host of This Show is So Gay, the nationally-syndicated radio show. In his spare time, he is a Professor of Education at Baldwin Wallace University, teaching courses in ethical leadership, antiracism, and how individuals can work with communities to make just and meaningful change.